Blue-green algae warning issued for Lake Ainslie

HALIFAX: The province’s environment department has issued a warning about the appearance of a blue-green algae bloom in Lake Ainslie.

On July 26, Nova Scotia Environment (NSE) issued a public advisory that the Inverness County lake was impacted by the algae bloom.

Linda Passerini, the manager of environmental health programs with NSE, told The Reporter that an inspector visually identified the blue-green algae. NSE communications advisor Adèle Poirier explained the department doesn’t normally test for blooms since it takes two to three weeks to get results.

“When we see a suspected bloom, we advise people in the area to take precautions,” Poirier noted. “We posted signs and asked area campgrounds, an inn, and a provincial day park to make people aware. We told the inn to use an alternate source of water. We continue to monitor the situation.”

After the bloom was identified, NSE staff conducted a risk assessment of the lake which includes how it’s being used (fishing, boating, swimming) and who lives along that body of water, Passerini noted.

During this process, Passerini said the NSE has been continually working with the community.

“The businesses that were identified on the lake were contacted and were provided the precautionary measures that we have in our advisory and public notification,” Passerini stated. “From what I understand, they’re working with the inspector.”

As part of the advisory, Poirier, confirmed that the lake is closed to swimmers and pets, and is not to be used for drinking water, cooking, or cleaning produce. Those around the lake are asked to stop showering, bathing and brushing their teeth using lake water.

“Parts of the lake that are well away from the visible bloom should be okay to use for recreational purposes,” Poirier pointed out. “However, a bloom can move so people should look for it before using the water.”

According to the NSE, Blue-green algae are microscopic bacteria that live in surface water like lakes, ponds, rivers and streams and can produce toxins that are harmful to humans and animals.

Health effects can be caused by contact with the skin or inhaling or swallowing contaminated water. Symptoms include: itchy, irritated eyes and skin; as well as headaches, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Children are at greater risk due to their lower body weight. Also, they generally spend more time in the water than adults and are more likely to accidentally swallow contaminated water.

Prolonged or high exposure in people, such as swallowing a large quantity of toxins, may damage the liver. In smaller animals, it can cause death.

As of July 30, Passerini said an inspector was on site and reported that the algae bloom was still visible. She said the department will continue to test and monitor the lake.

“It could be very site specific, it really will depend on the nature of the bloom and how the bloom survives and thrives,” Passerini noted. “We’ll keep an eye on it and once it is visually not present, then we’ll be able to understand what’s happening in the area.”

Passerini said Lake Ainslie is not particularly susceptible to algae blooms.

“Blue-green algae happens throughout the world and in various parts of Nova Scotia from time-to-time,” Passerini explained. “It’s unpredictable. Blue-green algae tends to bloom when the nutrients have what they need in order to grow to a bloom, that is warm water. It also likes to grow in areas where the water is more stagnant, so warm, still water.”

While it is possible this bloom will dissipate with time, Passerini cautioned that it could return.

“Once there is a bloom in a lake, a bloom may reappear later in the season,” she pointed out. “It really is unpredictable so we’re taking it day-by-day.”

For more information, check out the NSE’s Web site at: https://novascotia.ca/nse/environmental-health/blue-green-algae.asp.